As the winter started to give way to baseball season, we began profiling the top prospects in the Indians organization. Today, we end our countdown with the obvious choice for Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect: Francisco Lindor.
The Indians’ most recent first-round pick (No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB amateur draft), Lindor, then a 17-year-old shortstop, broke the mold of Brad Grant’s usual high picks, as a 17-year-old shortstop. This points to the fact that Lindor is a special talent who the Tribe could not pass up.
At this point, most Indians fan know all about Lindor and what he has to offer. He’s one of the rare high school shortstops who should be able to stick at that position throughout his professional career, and it’s not unreasonable to foresee a couple of Gold Gloves in his future. Lindor has a strong arm and is such a slick fielder that he could wow Indian fans even more than Asdrubal Cabrera defensive gems while also completely blowing him out of the water in statistics like UZR and dWAR.
Offensively, many analysts are trying to turn Lindor into more than he actually is. Some think that Lindor can grow enough to turn into a constant 20/20 threat, but that’s completely overhyping the young shortstop. Realistically, a batting average at or near .300 is highly likely, with 15/15 being a more realistic outlook for his prime. The possibility remains that Lindor could steal 20 bags or hit 20 home runs–the former being more likely–but those who expect that will probably end up disappointed.
Lindor profiles perfectly as a top of the order hitter. He doesn’t have exceptional speed, but he is a smart baserunner and that should allow him to get plenty of steals in his career. He has good power and could be a doubles machine with his smart baserunning, above-average speed and ability to spray hits all over the field.
Taking Lindor for what he is, he still has the makeup, offensive and defensive ability to be a true difference maker. If his development goes as planned, he could turn into one of the best and most well-rounded shortstops in baseball.
The way Starlin Castro made it to the majors could be a blueprint for Lindor’s track. Since Castro was an international signing, he has an extra year in the Dominican Summer League at age 17—Lindor played only five games at that age, but his reaching the big leagues at 20 or 21 is a possibility. Once Cabrera’s contract expires, Lindor could get pushed along much like Castro, who skipped Triple-A.
Expect Lindor to be the everyday shortstop in 2015, and he might get extended look with the parent club in 2014. Lindor could be a special player in Cleveland, and I expect him and Carlos Santana to be the players that define the next decade of Indians baseball.